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Mike Richards answers tough questions about past, future with Caps

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Mike Richards answers tough questions about past, future with Caps

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- New Capitals center Mike Richards met with reporters before Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders and addressed a variety of questions, from his mental health to his physical readiness to play in the NHL. Here’s what he had to say:

On meeting with Caps GM Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz in Toronto in late November:

I flew in to meet with them and it was a pretty laid back conversation. It was just kind of what my expectations were, what their expectations were, what they wanted from me. They obviously had to jump through some hoops and I obviously appreciate that. It was an exciting convo. Obviously they have a good team and I was hopeful to get with them.

On how much he’s been watching the Caps:

Probably more in the last couple weeks since it kind of started heating up a little more. A couple games a week I guess.

On what kind of shape he’s in:

Pretty good, I guess. I think the biggest thing will be the adjustment to the speed. It will be a little different than jumping in October. Obviously, January is a lot quicker than it is at the beginning of the season. So, just adjusting to the speed, getting ready through practice and we’ll go from there and see how it goes.     

On what he’s learned the past six months being out of the game:

Watching hockey at home and being away from it I think you just take it for granted playing and being in the NHL. You play 10 years and you almost take it for granted going to the rink every day. But when you don’t have that opportunity it weighs on you so it’s nice to be back.

On reuniting with Justin Williams:

It’s nice to have a familiar face. Obviously, Justin and I have gone through a lot together and have had success and became pretty good friends over the past couple years, too. We talked a lot in the last month. I kept him in the loop and he’s kept me in the loop. It’s nice to have a guy to welcome you that you know.

On meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Wednesday and their expectations on what to do and what not to do:

What not to do? Pretty self-explanatory, but that was just a private convo that we had and that’s pretty much all I can say about that.

On his reaction to Dean Lombardi’s comments about him in October:

I haven’t spoken to Dean in a really, really long time. No, I do not (have any reaction). I’ll take the high road.

On his history against the Capitals:

We’ve had some good battles, Ovi and I, and I’ve probably come out on the losing end on a lot of those. But they’ve got a good team. Just watching over the past couple weeks and the speed – it reminds me a lot of the team we had in L.A. the past couple years, big, strong, physical and can really dominate you really any way. If you want to play a hard game they can do that. If you want to play a fast game they can do that.

On whether he ever reached a point where he thought he would not play in the NHL:

I didn’t. I always expected to and I’ve always pushed to be back.

On what he’s done to get ready for his return:

I just tried to get ice time any way possible. I played in a men’s league back home, which was interesting but fun. I just worked out every morning. The first little bit you almost try to relax and get your mind away from it and take the break as a positive. And then it starts weighing on you and I think that just gives you a little more motivation to try to get back into the best shape possible. You work on some things and I think it gives you the hunger back in the game. After 10 years, to be away from it a bit, I think it just drives you a little more to play the game that you love.

On how he is a different person than a year ago when he last played in the NHL:

I’m not sure. 2015 wasn’t great, so hopefully 2016 will be. 

On what he’s learned:

Just don’t take anything for granted. It’s a privilege to play in the NHL and not everyone gets to do it. It’s a privilege to play hockey at the highest level and it’s not fun being 30 years old sitting on the couch and not having much to do. It’s exciting to be back here and obviously I’m fortunate. I thank the Caps for taking a chance on me and hopefully I can so some good things with them.

On renewing rivalries with Eastern Conference teams:

It’s nice to be on the East coast. I think travel played a role in the decision to come to Washington. I'm familiar with a lot of the heated battles with the Ranges and I obviously know Philadelphia just from being there for so long, so it’ll be fun being back in the East.

On other interest from NHL teams:

There was some interest with some other teams. A lot of people in the NHL were really supportive of me, too, so that went into consideration as well. But at the end of the day the Washington Capitals and their place in the standings speak for themselves. It’s hard not to take that opportunity.

On his own expectations: 

Just win again. You go through it. I’m lucky enough to have gone through it twice and you just want to keep doing it because it’s so much fun. It’s a lot of work, but the reward is pretty awesome.

On if he gave the Caps any assurances about his pending legal situation:

I can’t really talk about that. I’m just here to play hockey.

On possibly being a distraction:

I hope not. I’ve never been in this position before. I’m just coming in here trying to help a really good hockey team out and fit in. Everyone’s been great so far. It seems like they have a really good group of guys in that dressing room and hopefully I can just add to that.

On if he anticipates playing and living differently now than he did before when he was in the NHL:

I only know one way to play hockey, so I’m just going to try to play it the way I know. I’m just going to be myself. That’s all I know how to do and that’s all I’m going to be. I’m not going to try to change anything and I’m not going to try to change myself. I am who I am and I’ve had success being that way.         

MORE CAPITALS: Caps GM MacLellan explains reasoning behind Richards signing   

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NHL Power Rankings: A rough week

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: A rough week

The Caps are coming off of one of, if not the worst week of their season. Washington has now lost three of four games and all three of those losses came in devastating fashion.

On Feb. 11, the Caps hosted a scuffling Detroit Red Wings team and saw the Wings build a 4-1 lead in the second period, a period in which the Caps were outshot 17-2. Washington battled back to tie the game, but ultimately lost in overtime. Tuesday in Winnipeg the Caps held a 3-1 lead in the third period, but allowed the Jets to mount a comeback and tie the game with just 15 seconds remaining in regulation before losing in overtime. Then, of course, there was Saturday's 7-1 blowout at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that had lost eight straight coming into that game.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

To make matters worse, the Pittsburgh Penguins keep on winning and now hold a one-point lead over Washington. So yeah, things were not great.

The bad news is that, with the recent surges of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and even New Jersey, the Caps have to figure things out fast or they could continue to fall in the standings fairly quickly.

The good news is that they still remain in a relatively good position should they rebound. The Penguins do hold a one-point lead in the standings, but the Caps remain very much in the driver's seat of the division with three games in hand.

Four games separate Washington from the Feb. 26 trade deadline. The Caps will play in Buffalo, host Tampa Bay, play in Florida and host Buffalo. Winning three of those four games, especially if they can beat the dominant Lightning, will go a long way towards putting last week in the rearview mirror. Another tough week, however, could force the hand of general manager Brian MacLellan to make an unanticipated move at the trade deadline in order to keep a playoff season from falling apart.

After a week like that, it's no surprise to see Washington fall in this week's NHL Power Rankings. You can see the full rankings here.

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Game 59: Capitals at Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 59: Capitals at Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (33-18-7) take on the Sabres (17-31-11) Monday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Buffalo.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 7:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals at Sabres
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
7:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Sabres game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.